Nastase apologises for 'spontaneous' Serena comments
Romania's Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase has offered an apology for his controversial remarks regarding Serena Williams' pregnancy.
Ilie Nastase has apologised for comments he made concerning Serena Williams' unborn child, as well as his foul-mouthed outburst during Romania's Fed Cup clash with Great Britain.
Nastase, captain of his country's Fed Cup team, purportedly made racially insensitive remarks relating to Williams' pregnancy, days after the 23-time grand slam champion revealed she is expecting her first child with fiance Alexis Ohanian.
Nastase is reported to have said on Friday of Williams' unborn baby: "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?"
On Saturday, Nastase was ejected from Romania's Fed Cup play-off against Great Britain in Constanta after being given a second official warning for comments he made after Sorana Cirstea took a 2-1 lead in the second set of her rubber against Johanna Konta.
He was then escorted from the arena and aimed a tirade at members of the media on his way out, with Nastase accused of verbally abusing Konta and GB captain Anne Keothavong.
Nastase – who has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) as a result of his antics in Constanta – earlier this week denied that his comments concerning Williams were racist, insisting they were meant as "a joke".
Williams expressed her disappointment in an Instagram post and leant her "full support" to the ITF in its investigation, before on Friday Nastase released a statement on Facebook apologising for his behaviour and offering an explanation.
"I really respect Serena. She is one of the greatest tennis players of all times and I know how much work is behind these results," he said.
"At that press conference, I was asked about Serena's pregnancy. That was the first time I had heard about her pregnancy, and my reaction was spontaneous.
"I am fully aware that nothing can truly excuse my statements – not the tension of a high-stakes game, not my traditionally irreverent attitude, not the unfortunate escalation of the situation. My life remains dedicated to tennis and its audiences, so please accept my apologies, for whatever they may be worth right now."
Before addressing his comments regarding Williams in his statement, Nastase gave his side of the story from the controversy in Constanta.
"The last few days have been difficult for me. My words during the Fed Cup have rightfully caused controversy and upset the audience, the press and, most painfully for me, the tennis world," he said.
"I will not attempt to defend my words, but I can assure you they only stemmed from my genuine desire to defend the Romanian team and Romanian tennis.
"What happened in Constanta has been exaggerated by all. Jo[h]anna Konta had no right to speak to the chairman, the team captain is the only one who can do this. I asked the chairman for some explanations in a civilized manner, but he sent me to the stand. In the stand, they withdrew my status as Capitan [sic] of the Romanian Team and I became a simple spectator.
"After this, the referee suspended the match. I do not understand why he did it and based on what point from the regulation?"